Charges Dropped in Maui Protests Over Burial Protections

Nov 17, 2020

Maui County has dropped all charges related to protests over construction on known historic burial grounds in Kaua’ula Valley. Five native Hawaiian women with familial ties to the area on Maui’s west end have been refunded their bail and are calling for a halt to the project after human remains were uncovered.

Standing outside the Lahaina District Court House yesterday Victoria Kaluna-Palafox says she’s not done protesting.

"We going stop all this desecration. We going stop the taking of lands that do not belong to others…We as mothers are making a path for our future," said Kaluna-Palafox.

She was one of five native Hawaiian women arrested last month in Kaua’ula Valley for climbing into a trench dug by developer, the West Maui Land Co.. The company is installing a four-mile waterline in an area with a high number of cemeteries and burials.

The island’s burial council tried to halt the project in early October over concerns of its proximity to nearby cemeteries. But the project proceeded with the necessary county approvals.

The women gathered yesterday outside the courthouse after Maui County Acting Prosecutor Robert Rivera confirmed charges were not filed against the women, including Consuela Apolo-Gonsalves.

"Today was a good day but we won’t stop. This ain’t going to end. Enough already. Enough desecration of our ‘aina and enough pushing us away," said Apolo-Gonsalves. 

The women are part of a group calling themselves kia’i or protectors of Kaua’ula who have been protesting near the construction site since early October. The group is calling for a halt of the project until archeological work can be completed to ensure ancestral remains are protected.  

About a week into protests, the West Maui Land Co. uncovered human remains at the opposite end of the worksite and has since stopped construction at that site until they receive further guidance from the State Historic Preservation Division.

The Maui Lana’i Island Burial Council will be taking up the matter at its meeting Wednesday.